NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — "Shark Week" has come and gone, but a massive sea monster caught over the weekend off the Massachusetts coast is making waves among local fishermen.
A 609-pound thresher shark was caught Saturday off the Cape Ann coast, the giant fish weighing in at just a few pounds shy of the state's all-time record.
Charter boat fisherman Bob Cloutier said he was about 60 miles off shore when his nephew, Zach Cloutier, hooked a fish that instantly caught their attention.
"The fish took a lot of line, so I knew it was something out of the ordinary," said Bob Cloutier.
In the world of sharks, the thresher is an unusual creature — it has an extra-long extension on its upper tail that is nearly as long as its body. It uses it to slap the surface of the water to herd its prey.
It also has an extraordinary behavior that the Cloutiers witnessed several times — thresher sharks leap out of the water, sometimes several feet in the air. It’s a sight that is stunning and frightening even to the saltiest of ocean fishermen.
"We saw it jump a few times. It gave a heck of a show," said Bob Cloutier.
For the next two and a half hours, Zach battled hard to get the fish to the boat. When it finally reached the boat, Bob Cloutier said he had new problem to deal with: how to get it aboard. Even with four grown men aboard, the task was impossible. A radio call brought another fisherman to their aid, and with the help of his block and tackle gear, the shark was hauled aboard the 30-foot-long Sailfish center console boat.
The shark was brought to the Newburyport, Mass., fishing pier, where the harbormaster Paul Hogg took a photo of the fish and the four men who were on board the vessel when it was caught.
"It was pretty close to the state record," Hogg said.
The state record is 630 pounds for a thresher shark caught off Martha's Vineyard in July 2011. Hogg speculated that the Cloutiers' shark had a chance at breaking that record, but a delay in weighing it likely shrunk its weight somewhat.
The shark meat wasn't wasted, Bob Cloutier said.
"It's great to eat," he said. "I steaked it up and gave it to everyone I know, and a lot of people I don't."
John Macone is editor of the Daily News of Newburyport. He can be reached at email@example.com.